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Most modern tennis rackets are made using a graphite (carbon fibre) frame strung with nylon for performance, durability and cost-effectiveness. How these components are combined, however, can create thousands of rackets that all play differently from each other.
Each modern racket begins as a digital design using 3D engineering software. Digitally, the geometry of the racket is stress tested before any prototypes are made, as any part of the racket could easily be hit with 50kg of force during a match. Once made, the racket is tested rigorously by professional athletes who offer advice on the adjustments to make. From there it is time to manufacture the racket for stores worldwide.
The carbon fibre used for racket production is impregnated with resin and stored at -15C until required. Sheets of fibre material are sliced and placed together according to the design plan. How these sheets are laid together completely alters the properties of the racket, which is what makes carbon fibre the desired material for professional manufacturers.
The carbon is then rolled around a steel bar, making a tube. The carbon tube is then placed into a steel mould which is used to form the racket shape. Additional fibre pieces are added to reinforce the racket shape. The mould is heated to 160C with a pressure of 10 bars applied to force the fibre and resin out into the shape of the mould. Additional pieces of resin are filed off.
Paint and strings
The holes for the grommets are drilled using a specially designed drill-bit machine, as per the schematics of the original design. It is at this stage that the custom designs are applied to the frame. Initially a base coat primer is applied to the racket before the air-brushed paint and varnish is hand applied depending on the custom design. Only after the racket is stringed are the custom graphics applied to the frame. The ergonomic grip tape is carefully wrapped around the handle.
At this point the racket is strung, however the string tension is an enormous factor to the playing characteristic and can be adjusted to suit the player’s style. Each individual vector design is plotted on vinyl and finally applied to the racket to finish off the unique creation. To ensure optimum quality, the racket is control tested finally before shipping.
With the myriad ways that each racket can be adjusted for performance as well as the creative designs that can be applied to them, it's incredibly easy to turn an idea into an utterly unique piece of sporting equipment. Like this article on How it's Made? Check out our blog for articles like this and more.